Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lazarus! Part One -- John 11:1-16

Lazarus! Part One -- John 11:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 28, 2015

Roger Miller was a folk singer from the sixties and he wrote a song called, "Lou's Got the Flu" and one of the stanzas went something like this, "Some people bad and some people good; Too bad the bad can't be like the good. But everything changes a little and it should; Good ain't forever and bad ain't for good." Sadly, far too many have this view of their lives because they think that good is forever and bad ain't for good! However, Miller meant it as a play on words, meaning that bad people aren't good for anything, yet there are those who think that God winks at our living dangerously. He does not. They forget what God's purpose is for their lives.

The final days of Jesus' life is winding to a close and John takes the next eleven chapters to share with us in intimate detail what occurs. Each part of the gospel narrative from here on is important for us to understand. I believe John wanted future believers to fully understand what Jesus was about to do, why it occurred, and exactly what happened. This is why I divided the story of Lazarus into two parts. Today, we will discuss Lazarus! Part One!

READ: John 11:1-16

Here in John's gospel we find a familiar story about a man named Lazarus, who dies suddenly and his sisters Mary and Martha. What is interesting is how Jesus handles the situation and how others, including his own disciples, perceive what occurs. John teaches us that…

I. Some folks misunderstand God's purpose! (Vv. 1-4)

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."

  1. John begins this section of his gospel narrative with, "Now a man named Lazarus was sick." We will discover later just how important Lazarus is to Jesus and what his story means to the history of Jesus and how he related to his friends. We have to understand that the historians and writers of Jesus' day were not as interested in getting things in a rigid chronological order like we are now. Instead, they were more interested in getting the story right. So, we find John making reference to "Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair." Within the weave of the tale we discover a family of three siblings; one brother, Lazarus, and two sisters, Mary and Martha. No mention of husbands, a wife, parents or others, just these three. And evidently they were close to Jesus because we find that "the sisters sent word to Jesus." It is notable to see that they let Jesus know. Evidently Lazarus was one of the few folks Jesus had affection for outside of his inner circle of disciples. Contrary to some extreme liberal theological opinions, the sister's mentioning Jesus' love for Lazarus has nothing to do with any sexual proclivities on either man's part. Instead it is a common way close friends of this era addressed one another. The term here is the word phileo, meaning to be a friend of or brotherly love and has nothing to do with physical affection; those who do not know Jesus often struggle with a believer's affection for another Christian because of the commonality of Jesus they share. The sisters appeal to the one they know who might possibly help their ailing brother. What they did not know is what God already had planned for Lazarus. After learning of what was happening, Jesus responds, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." God had a reason for Lazarus' ailment. Some folks misunderstand God's purpose.

  EXAMPLE: We can often wonder or lament when things go wrong, "Why is this happening to me?" Yet often as not when we look back on what occurred we discover how God worked through the situation to strengthen and encourage us. When things do not go always as planned or when life just seems to get in the way of things, I am reminded of what God told the prophet Jeremiah when he was dismayed over the course his life was taking and the fate of his people, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) Lazarus's sisters, like many do today, misunderstood God's purpose.

There are those who think that when the Bible speaks about the light of God or Jesus being the Light that he meant it in a metaphysical sense. He did not. One either has the light of God or they have the darkness of sin, there is no in-between. Here, in John's gospel we discover that…

II. Some folks misunderstand the light!  (Vv. 5-10)

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."

  1. Again, we find the usage of the term phileo, friendship, when John relates, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." And no, this is not some conspiracy on the part of John to mislead the reader on Jesus' love for Mary. This is the convoluted thinking of folks like Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, who ran with his own demented version of historical facts that the intellectually inept are apt to actually believe as factual. Curiously, "Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days." This is affirmation of God's plan. He knows what he is doing and we often only see and are consumed by the moment. However, as tough as it would be for the sisters Mary and Martha, it would end in the fulfillment of God's plan. After a few days had passed Jesus tells his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." Unbeknown to them, he is headed for Lazarus' tomb. They rightly protest, "But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" They do not see the big picture yet. They are concerned for the moment, the danger for Jesus' life, and had not yet learned to trust in their Master's decisions. He had just gotten through explaining to all who heard him that he and the Father were One. He was God and they still did not understand his plan. His delay was not due to a lack of concern or love for his friend Lazarus. Why would Jesus risk his life? He responds by telling them, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." During that time people got up with the sun, did what they needed to do, and went to bed when it got dark. They worked, played, and did what they had to do in the light of the world. When one tried to walk or work at night, they often stumbled due to poor lighting. In the spiritual realm when one lives by the will of God, the light, he is safe. Living in the realm of evil, sinful darkness, is dangerous and one stumbles. Some folks misunderstand the light!   

  EXAMPLE: We do not walk in darkness as believers; we walk in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. Yet far too many focus their eyesight on only what they see in front of themselves. When they do, they will spiritually stumble. We begin to live for the moment, for what concerns us for the day. Instead of seeking the light of God we seek instead to illuminate our lives with what we desire, want, or think we need. We begin to use worldly thinking and say things like, "I need this. I deserve this. I want this." We live by the dimness of our emotions instead of the Light of God. In the gloom of our lives we wonder why we are not experiencing God as we were promised and forget that we are using our own artificial light instead. We become dim bulbs for God. Some folks misunderstand the light!

Not only do most folks have a misunderstanding concerning the purpose of their lives, but they struggle with the end of their lives as well. We have become so captivated with our lives that we have an unhealthy view of death. Here in John's gospel we discover that…

III. Some folks misunderstand death! (Vv 11-16)

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

  1. As John continues to recount the tale to us of Lazarus he begins to share why Jesus did not hurry to his friend's side right away. The disciples had misunderstood God's plan and they could only see what was right in front of their eyes. They forgot who was to light their way. Jesus goes on to tell them why he is going to go back to Judea and into possible danger, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." Now there are those who think that the term "sleep" here means a soul kind of sleep, but there is no such thing ever mentioned or even alluded to in Scripture. The term Jesus used here meant Lazarus was dead to the mortal world, but only asleep as far as the power of God was concerned. Make no mistake; Lazarus was morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead! He was not just merely dead, he was most sincerely dead! But Jesus was "going to wake him up!" Not understanding what Jesus was talking about his disciples thought, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." But we categorically see that while his disciples thought Jesus was talking about natural sleep, "Jesus had been speaking of his death." This is how we know for certain that anyone who teaches death is just sleeping from this passage is ignorant of Scripture and what the Jesus taught about death. To make absolutely sure they understood what was about to happen, Jesus tells them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Did you ever get frustrated in having to explain over and over what you mean about something very simple to understand? It is natural for adults to have to explain directions several times over to preschoolers. "Put your clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, not your head! Eat your peas, but do not stick them up your nose!" Can you imagine Jesus' frustration when Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Some think Thomas was referring to the Roman mystery religions where part of the initiation was to symbolically "die" and then live for your teacher afterwards. But this makes no sense in the context here. Rather I believe Thomas was simply saying that if they could not dissuade Jesus from Going back to Judea and face possible death, then he was willing to go and face it with him.  See, some folks do misunderstand death!

  EXAMPLE: We cling to this life with such might that we often forget that this is not all there is, we live on either separated from God or in his presence. This physical life is but a momentary blip on the eternity we have facing us. So important was the concept of our spiritual eternal nature that Jesus spoke and taught about it often. Jesus spoke about the fact of judgment and that those who fail to trust in him "will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:46 NIV) and "that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life, for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:15-16 NIV) We have learned that God's "will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and [Jesus] will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40 NIV) Some folks misunderstand death!

Conclusion:
Some folks misunderstand God's purpose! Some folks misunderstand the light! Some folks misunderstand death!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jesus Is God! - John 10:17-42

Jesus Is God! - John 10:17-42
June 21, 2015
By Pastor Lee Hemen

There are those who think they are gods, those who think they will become gods, or those who simply have a psychological god-complex, who think they make their own heaven or hell. When in actuality they just make everyone else's life a living Hades. Sadly far too many in our word today have no room for God until they get in a physical, personal, or psychological bind, then they want God to solve their problems immediately that they created over years.

Jesus did not have a god-complex, he did not come to try and make individuals realize their god-potential, nor did he teach that we make our own heaven and hell. Rather he taught very specific things concerning him, our sin nature, and what will occur if we do not trust him with our lives. In fact, his revelations both shocked and surprised the religious leaders of his day. Here in John's gospel we discover that Jesus taught that there is no God but God himself and Jesus is God! Let's discover what that means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 10:17-42

There are those who actually think that Jesus was some kind of deluded person who wandered around esoterically teaching mystical concepts that only the initiated could understand. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact right here we discover that…

I. Jesus would willingly give his life for our sin! (Vv. 17-21)

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?" But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

  1. The Jewish leadership thought they had a lock on who God was and how he interacted with his people and the world. They were wrong. Instead of following him out of devotion and love, they followed Yahweh out of a sense of duty in order to maintain their self-righteousness. They had forgotten that God loved the world and wanted his chosen people to introduce him to the rest of humanity. This can be true for some Christians of our day as well when they would rather adhere to a bunch of rules than love God and others! And now these leaders accused Jesus of not knowing God. He responds by telling them, "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again." Only Jesus had the ability to give his life at the time of his choosing and only Jesus could raise himself from the grave to prove he was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. This is interesting because those who were already plotting how they could murder Jesus were being told that it would not be according their timetable or desire. In fact he would relate, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." Within the trinity of the godhead, Jesus the Son is given the command as a human being to give his life and to live again! Wow! Notice that "At these words the Jews were again divided." This is one of fifteen times in John's gospel that we see folks divided by Jesus. (John 6:52, John 6:60, John 6:66; John 7:12, John 7:25.; John 8:22; John 9:16.; John 10:19, John 10:24, John 10:41; John 11:41.; John 12:19, John 12:29, John 12:42; John 16:18.) While belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord unifies folks, he also divides those who would not believe. Notice how they were divided: "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?" But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?" They were divided over his statement that Jesus would willingly give his life for our sin!

  EXAMPLE: It is a hard concept for some to understand in our day because we think everything should revolve around us as individuals. "A white wall in the Veterans Memorial Museum in Branson, Missouri, bears the names of 406,000 US soldiers who died in World War II. Each name points beyond itself to the larger cause for which they died. Nearly every nation has monuments to its fallen soldiers and a day to remember those who died fighting for their country. Whether or not we agree with their ideals, we do well to ponder their courage and sacrifice." -- RBC Jesus would willingly give his life for our sin!

They say, "Inquiring minds want to know," but often folks are not truly interested in knowing they are wrong, especially where it concerns spiritual matters. We discover here in John's gospel folks are not the center of the universe, in fact…

II. Jesus declares he is God! (Vv. 22-34)


Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

  1. Several months pass and we find Jesus back in Jerusalem, "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade." This is what we now as Hanukah, the Festival of Lights. It is a minor festival not commanded by God but a time of remembrance. It commemorates the reconsecration of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC after its desecration in 168 BC by Antiochus IV. The time for the eight-day feast was in December. And as always "The Jews gathered around him." The idea is one of Jesus being closed in by an angry crowd. They surround him to pressure him into publicly declaring himself the Messiah so that they could perhaps bring charges against him for blasphemy. They ask him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus had in fact told them, and so had God himself, but they refused to listen to his words or give credit to God for the miracles he had performed! Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Not being of the fold of God, they could not fathom what Jesus was trying to teach them and had rejected out of hand his testimony, God's declaration, and the miracles! However, Jesus knows his sheep and they willingly follow him. When they do, Jesus stated, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." This is an emphatic statement meaning that when we trust Jesus he always gives us eternal life, we will never ever perish, we can never be taken from him because it is God himself who keeps us! And then comes the clinker, Jesus tells the crowd exactly why he can say and do this, "I and the Father are one." He does not say he like God, he does not say is one of many gods, he does not say he will become a god; he states he is God! I do not understand why so many are truly ignorant of Jesus' teaching on this, because the Jews sure weren't! They pick up stone to stone him to death for declaring he is God! Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." There it is -- Jesus declares he is God!

  EXAMPLE: This is one of the boldest and most startling statements ever uttered by an individual in history. Sure there were those who thought they were gods, but they died and rotted in their manmade tombs. There have been those declared as gods by their followers but they too all died and are now so must dirt. Even the likes of some flaky movie starlets and star thought of themselves as god, but they are nothing more than the mirror image of the Creator and they will die in their son if they do not trust in the one who actually was God in human flesh; who willingly gave his life for them and rose again from the grave to prove who he was! Jesus is God!



III. Those who know Jesus know God! (Vv. 35-42)

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, "Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." And in that place many believed in Jesus.

  1. Not wasting anytime to debate the issue Jesus confronts them with logic, which is often lost on those who have a predetermined mindset. He answers their indignation with, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?" What Jesus is quoting is the fact that God often used the term "god" in discussing the power and might judges, kings or rulers had. In fact, humans being made in God's image have the power to judge, create, and or destroy things! Jesus is referencing the power our Creator God has allowed his creation. So, in their own "law" their scriptures, God had declared them "gods" and if he had called men this "to whom the word of God came" why would they object if God's own Son, "his very own and sent into the world", would use the term about himself? Jesus could not be blaspheming because he was God's Son -- God in human flesh! Jesus tells them that if they have a tough time with this, then "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Jesus is not saying he is one with God the Father in a mystical mysterious sense but rather that he and God are the same. You see Jesus, you see God. His earlier "I am" statements are clarified. They had just said he had claimed he was God, how could they now stone him for proving he was! "Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him." And it is here among the common folk that Jesus is seen for who he is, "Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." And in that place many believed in Jesus. Those who know Jesus know God!

  EXAMPLE: Sometimes we can be so busy following God; we never get to know God. This was the problem the Hebrews had during Jesus' day. They had become so busy trying to follow God through his commands they forgot that he gave them to them as a nation so they would come to know him moment by moment. In fact, a personal relationship with God had become a totally foreign notion that they no longer believed possible and anyone who said it was was deemed demon-possessed! Can you imagine that? While reading our Bible, prayer, church attendance are all necessary for our spiritual development, we would do well to remember to get to know the One we read about, talk with, and follow. Don't use these things as a check list but rather as a means to understand and know him more. The first thing one must do is come to Jesus, why? Because those who know Jesus know God!

Conclusion:

Here in John's gospel we discover that Jesus would willingly give his life for our sin, Jesus declares he is God, and those who know Jesus know God!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Good shepherd! - John 10:1-16

The Good shepherd! - John 10:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 14, 2015

In our day and age we do not think about shepherds, in fact most folks would not know what they are or what they do unless one lived in the Southwest or some other place that raises sheep. Shepherding is a lost art that has been replaced by other means such as GPS, dogs and gas-powered vehicles. However, in Jesus' day shepherding was a way of life that everyone was intimately aware of. Comparing people to a shepherd and his sheep was common. The priests and the rulers often called themselves shepherds and their people as sheep. This is why the Bible makes frequent use of this analogy. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David were shepherds.

Jesus takes the idea of shepherding and relates it to the fact that the spiritual leadership of his day had lost their ability to be insightful shepherds who took care of those entrusted to their care. Instead of being good shepherds they had become…

I. Thieves and robbers! (Vv. 1-10)

"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

  1. There are those who think that Jesus was some kind of emotional and emasculated wimp. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was no "Mama's Boy." He not only spoke what was on his mind, he spoke the truth. Again, he begins his teaching by telling his listeners, "I tell you the truth." When we find Jesus saying this, it means that his hearers had not only better listen they should also understand what he is about to tell them. If they do not, they will suffer the consequences of not doing so. Jesus bluntly tells them that "the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber." Those who want to steal what you have always try to enter by some other means. However, "The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." Sheep in Jesus' day would listen for their master's voice and follow him to safety, to feed, or to drink. "But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Smart sheep, too bad more people are not like these sheep Jesus describes. And isn't interesting that those who disdain Jesus and his followers often call them "a bunch of sheep"? I for one am glad to be named one of his! Contrary to what some ignoramuses often think, sheep are smarter than a lot of folks! Sadly just as those today often do not understand the teachings of Jesus, "they did not understand what he was telling them" either. So, Jesus reiterates what he had just told them but adds new meaning, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them." All who teach anything other than what Jesus teaches are "thieves and robbers" who try to spiritually sneak in and rob the innocent of the gospel. Jesus in another "I am" statement emphatically relates, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus the good shepherd, the gate of God, gives us life completely, anything else only kills and destroys those who listen to it. Anything or anyone else who teaches anything contrary to what Jesus taught is simply thieves and robbers!

  EXAMPLE: Far too many in our day and age incorrectly think that there are many ways to God or that all they have to do is think good thoughts about themselves and others. We would never use the same kind of convoluted logic when handling toxic chemicals, explosives, prescription drugs, or the vehicles we drive. Although there are those who foolishly do, thank goodness they are in the minority! Could you imagine trying to justify transporting gasoline in open buckets in the back of your pickup truck? Jesus the good shepherd, the gate of God, gives us life completely, anything else only kills and destroys those who listen to it. Anything or anyone else who teaches anything contrary to what Jesus taught is simply thieves and robbers!

All who came before Jesus were thieves and robbers and all who try to teach anything other than what Jesus teaches is as well. They are evil shepherds while Jesus is…

II. The Good Shepherd! (Vv. 11-16)


"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

  1. When they begin to doubt what Jesus is trying to teach them, Jesus bluntly retorts, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." That's what a good shepherd does, he protects his flock. Yet more than this Jesus the ultimate shepherd would deliberately lay his life down for the sins of the whole flock! Again, Jesus uses the "I am" God-statement for himself. Good sheep or bad, Jesus would die for his sheep! The priests of Jesus' day would never have done such a thing and in fact were more than willing to throw anyone under the nearest Roman chariot who dared teach anything other than their convoluted view of God. In fact, they were like "hired hands" that had no vested interest in the sheep they were supposed to take care of, "So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." False shepherds are only interested in the sheep when they get something in return, money, recognition, fame, or fortune are what they are in the shepherding business for. They care nothing for the sheep! In contrast, Jesus is the "good shepherd." He intimately knows his sheep and his sheep intimately know and trust him. It is just like the father and son relationship Jesus has with God the Father! When those who come to Jesus by faith are willing to trust him with their lives, he willingly gives them everything he has! Including his life! "I lay down my life for the sheep" Jesus tells them. He would die a horrendous death on the cross for our sins! I know this to be true because he also tells his listeners that it was not just for the Hebrew nation he came to die for, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." That's us! Those of us who are willing today to give our lives and trust the Good Shepherd to lead us in and out of his pasture! Jesus is the Good Shepherd!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who give Jesus a bad name because they claim Christ, but then they teach something quite different from what the Good Shepherd taught. Churches who rant about the judgment of homosexuality but refuse to teach on the compassion of Christ; churches who claim fellowship with Jesus simply because they think they are saints when in fact they are wolves in sheep's clothing; or churches that refuse to teach on sin and leave their listeners in the world's fold where they are eaten alive by the perverted predators of this world. In contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid his life down for his sheep and gives us eternal life when we trust ourselves to his tender care. Do you hear his voice? He is calling your name today. Come home to the fold of the Good Shepherd.

Conclusion:

Anything or anyone else who teaches anything contrary to what Jesus taught is simply thieves and robbers! In contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid his life down for his sheep and gives us eternal life when we trust ourselves to his tender care. Do you hear his voice? He is calling your name today. Come home to the fold of the Good Shepherd.

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Blind! -- John 9:1-41

The Blind! -- John 9:1-41
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 14, 2015

The old proverbial saying, "There's none so blind as those who will not see" according to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, has been traced back to 1546 (John Heywood), and resembles the Biblical verse: "Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear! (Jeremiah 5:21 NIV)" People can be physically born blind; they can be emotionally blind, intellectually blind, and worse -- spiritually blind.

The Jewish leadership was spiritually blinded. They had become so used to the way things were and so used to following their set of codified laws that they could not see the working of God right in front of their eyes. Jesus came on the scene and began to shake things up for the blind. Let's discover what happened…

READ: John 9:1-41

Here in John's gospel we find…

I. Those spiritually ignorant remain blind! (Vv. 1-12)

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." "Where is this man?" they asked him. "I don't know," he said.

  1. As soon as something good happens to some folks, others begin to think that it was due to luck, good genes, or mom liking them best! And, if something goes wrong, they think something else. As they were walking, Jesus' disciples ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Their view of sin was skewed. They thought that he was in sin or his parents were sinners so he was born blind! "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." We forget that God has a plan for each of our lives and we are created for his glory. That man was part and parcel of what God desired for that moment. Jesus relates, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Jesus was the light in a sin-darkened world. He then displayed why this was true, "he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes." He then told the man to go and wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam. The man does and comes home seeing! His neighbors were incredulous and begin to question God's miracle, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he insists, "I am the man." "How then were your eyes opened?" they demand. The crowd just could not see God working in their midst. He gave Jesus the credit, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." They want to know where Jesus is, but he does not know where Jesus went. Those spiritually ignorant willingly remain blind!

  EXAMPLE: We had talked for over two hours and he still would not try to understand the truth of Scripture. He wanted to argue minor theological issues instead. I finally quit talking about the Bible and began to talk about baseball. His response was immediate. "Hey! I'm not through!" I related I was since he had decided to remain defensive and accusatory toward what we had been discussing. He wanted to argue for arguments sake and I wanted to discuss what he truly believed. Like what occurred here in John's gospel, I discovered that those spiritually ignorant willingly remain blind!

Interestingly we discover that…

II. Those given a glimmering of sight can lead the blind! (Vv. 13-23)

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided. Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened." The man replied, "He is a prophet." The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. "Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?" "We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."

  1. Not believing their own eyes, they bring the man before the Pharisees. These were the ones who were supposed to be leading the nation spiritually. They were not interested in God actually working in their midst but instead focused on the gnat; Jesus broke the Sabbath! The man explains Jesus simply put mud in his eyes and he now had sight! In their narrow-view they gripe amongst themselves, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided and then turn back to the blind man, whom they did not believe in the first place, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened!" Wow! Not being sure of what they wanted him to say and not being sure exactly who Jesus was, he responds, "He is a prophet!" The Pharisees had the nosey neighbors who knew the man, they had the man himself, and they had the results but they still could not believe what their eyes saw. Instead, they send for his parents! And the interrogation is on, "Is this your son? Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?" They respond, "We know he is our son and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." Notice that his parents said this "because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, 'He is of age; ask him." Those given a glimmering of sight can lead the blind!

  EXAMPLE: Blind Man's Buff or Blind Man's Bluff is a children's game, a variant of tag in which the player who is "It" is blindfolded. The traditional name is "blind man's buff", wherein the word buff is used in its older sense of a small push. The game later also became known as "blind man's bluff"; it is possible that this name is a linguistic corruption. The Pharisees of Jesus' day were in a sense playing a deadly game of Blind Man's Buff in that they were trying to push everyone into the pit they would ultimately fall into themselves! Jesus would tell his followers that the way of the Pharisees was a path leading to a pit, "Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Matthew 15:14 NIV) Those given a glimmering of sight can lead the blind!

We find that…

III. Those blinded by sin cannot see! (Vv. 24-34)

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this man is a sinner." He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

  1. Some say that "curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back." However, in this case it is stupid is as stupid does. Not satisfied in getting the answers they desire, the Pharisees bring the man a second time and demand that he "Give glory to God!" They were certain Jesus sinned and they were going to get the truth they wanted or else! And sometimes the best answers come from the simplest logic. The man responds to their interrogation, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" Often when frustrated folks do not get the answer they desire they begin to get louder and even more frustrated and angry. The Pharisees become accusatory and demand, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"  They wanted anything to gain an advantage over the miracle and Jesus. Again, the once blind man answers with a charming and I suspect a sly response, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" His reply ratcheted up their aggression toward him; they begin to hurl insults at him: "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." Now take a breath and be in the moment that is occurring here. A once poor blind beggar is having a theological discussion with the supposed spiritual elite of his people and they are the ones who are losing the argument! His answer to their insults is truly one of those great moments in history, "Now that is remarkable! YOU don't know where he comes from, yet HE opened MY EYES. WE KNOW that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. NOBODY has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this MAN were not from GOD, he could do nothing!" And what is their opened-mouth response? "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out. Those blinded by sin cannot see!

  EXAMPLE: Recently the fifth graders of the elementary school I work at part time went to Ape Caves. I asked them if while they were there if they turned off their lanterns and flashlights to see just how dark it was in the underground lava tube. They did and all of them agreed it was extremely dark. So dark in fact you could not see your hand in front of your face. This kind of personal blindness is also referred to for those who refuse to see the truth when it is right in front of them. This was true of the Pharisees and it is true for anyone who sees Jesus, understand his words, but refuses to trust him with their lives. They cannot see the hand in front of their face. Those blinded by sin cannot see!

We find that without Jesus…

IV. The spiritually blind will never see! (Vv. 35-41)

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."

  1. The compassion of Christ is remarkable. John relates that when "Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?'" meaning, the Messiah. Of course he did and I believe he suspected what Jesus was trying to tell him and asks, "Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him." Herein are two of the wisest questions ever asked by any man in the history of the world, because they are foundational in our trusting Jesus. When we are willing to ask, we are willing to seek him, and if we are willing to seek him, we are ready to trust him with our lives. This is where the once blind man was. Jesus bluntly tells him without any sugar-coating, come-on bargaining, spiritual bribery, or mega-church coercion, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." Simple truth should always be kept simple. Not only were his eyes opened but now his heart was open to the truth of the gospel, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Wow. What a tremendous moment. Perhaps the man fell at Jesus' feet, perhaps Jesus placed his hands on his forehead, but whatever occurred I can see and hear Jesus kindly tell him, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Of course, some of the Pharisees who were following Jesus around, heard his words and retort, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus' response to their hurt feelings is classic, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." The spiritually blind will never see!

  EXAMPLE: The dust collected on one's sandals or the soles of one's feet was to be washed or dusted off before entering a home. Jesus related to his disciples that when they went to a home or a city and those there did not listen to the gospel, they were to dust off their feet and leave. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. (Matthew 10:14 NIV)" Charles Schultz's character from Peanuts, Pigpen, who had a cloud of dust always surrounding him would need an entire bath! The Pharisees were fast becoming the Pigpens of Jesus' day. The spiritually blind will never see!

Conclusion:

Those spiritually ignorant willingly remain blind! Those given a glimmering of sight can lead the blind! Those blinded by sin cannot see! The spiritually blind will never see!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.